In a famous children's story (you might have heard of it) the main characters are two people who like each other: one chases after the other and the other runs away. Then there is an “uh-oh,” and the chaser becomes sick of chasing and goes away.
The one who usually runs away then realizes they are not being chased, and fights for the affection of the chaser. Finally, they live happily ever after.
This is pretty much the basis for every romance story ever told, right? So, let’s take a closer look at the similarities in how this storyline plays out in many, if not all, of our real-life relationships.
The part of the story I am most interested in shining a light on is around attachment styles and how they can affect the way we think, feel and act. Attachment styles are learned very early in life and continue to play out in all of our relationships. There might have been one defining moment or many; the point is that somewhere along the way you learned this was the way to love and be loved.
If you think of the chaser in the story as someone who needs attention and can have lots of big feelings, you could say many of the princesses in famous stories fall into this category. But, of course, in real life people of all genders can fit this description.
When someone becomes upset they stomp their feet and run away, except when they run away and you do not follow (or even worse, you run away), they become more upset and may try harder to earn your attention in seemingly unhelpful ways. This person has a lot of fear that you will leave and never come back.
Think of the runner in this story as someone who lives in a castle. The more the runner feels pursued or poked at, the deeper into the castle they go. Maybe it reminds you of a certain beastly character in a recent movie remake?
The runner does not want to be followed; they truly need space before they can return to connect with you. This person has a lot of fear that they will not be able to be their own person or that they will be smothered and swallowed whole by the other person’s feelings. Autonomy is very important to this person.
You might recognize these characteristics as those of your own or your partner, or even a friend or parent. If you notice an argument heading in this direction, try something different to achieve different results.
If you are usually the chaser, try to notice when your anxiety begins to take over. If you are the partner of a chaser, see if you can follow them with love when they run away.
If you are usually the runner, take some time to notice when the wall comes up. If you are the partner of a runner, see if you can give them some time alone without poking at them about it.
Keep in mind there is no right or wrong way. It is really about recognizing this exists within each and every one of us, and making a bit more room for each other’s needs.
Niseema Emery is a certified intimacy and relationship coach in Powell River.